There’s this video on YouTube. It shows a group of very old men touring a tank museum in Germany. At first it seems like a perfectly boring video of old men looking at old stuff. Then a young woman begins interviewing them. These old men are German and the questions she’s asking are about World War II.
The video is an excerpt from a 2003 Dutch documentary called On the Threshold of Oblivion, in which the filmmaker is seeking justice for Nazi war crimes committed in Holland in 1944. But I didn’t know that when I first saw the video. All I saw were the old German men talking about WWII. And their answers were chilling.
They had been Nazi soldiers, and I guess I presumed they would speak of the war with the wisdom of their age. But I was wrong. I was very wrong. Instead they spoke with the arrogance, hubris and cowardice of Nazis. I won’t repeat their specific quotes, but everything they said was entirely revisionist. They spoke absurd sentences that defied all logic and evidence. They talked confidently, indignantly, as though the entire world didn’t know better.
I was genuinely shocked. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard revisionist history or anti-Semitism. I’d been on the Internet before. But they were just so fucking cavalier in expressing a disgusting, repugnant view, of which there is only evidence against. Just 58 years before that video was shot, the entire world collectively and violently proved those hateful old imbeciles wrong. And it didn’t matter to them in the slightest. These Nazis, standing in the deepest sewer of the zeitgeist, somehow still claimed the moral high ground.
I think about this video a lot. I think about how an actual world war couldn’t break those weak-minded racists of their depravity. And then, of course, I think about all the weak-minded racists in this country and the people who still think those racists can be talked out of their depravity. As if the racism can be set straight with an explanation or adjustment of logic.
Some people still look at the president as someone who just doesn’t know better. As if the president — who, as a private citizen, for five years straight, incessantly claimed that the first black president couldn’t possibly have been born in this country — was simply mistaken. As if the president — who ran for office on promises to ban the brown people from the Middle East, and the brown people at our southern border, from entering this country — was just misguided. As if the president — who not only kept those promises, but inhumanely went further by separating these brown families and putting brown children into concentration camps — just doesn’t understand the ramifications of his actions.
These people give the president’s followers the same benefit of the doubt. As if the through line for the Republican Party hasn’t been racism since the Goldwater era. As if fiscal conservatives would vote for the most financially irresponsible public figure in a generation, or Christian conservatives would vote for such an irreligious scoundrel without that through line. As if the president’s support of the “very fine people” at white supremacist rallies, his distaste for “shithole countries,” the rise in racist and anti-Semitic attacks, and the president himself being named as an inspiration by white supremacist terrorists around the world, could just be coincidence.
On Valentine’s Day, news broke that the president will be sending armed tactical forces to so-called “sanctuary cities.” I wonder how long it will be until there are curfews in those cities. I wonder if martial law will be declared or just slowly enacted, until it’s merely another aspect of the new normal.
Also on Valentine’s Day, the Bangor Daily News reported, “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, plans to open a Maine facility to hold people suspected of immigration violations.” I think about the thousands upon thousands of children who, once detained in these kinds of facilities, are physically and/or sexually abused and/or just suddenly go missing.
The facility will be in a Scarborough industrial building. According to the BDN, the building is owned by Maine Realty Advisors. “[MRA] principal Josh Soley said that his firm offered the space for the government’s use by bidding on a contract from the Department of Homeland Security via an online system,” Nick Schroeder reported.